Jurassic Park

Look of the Week: Laura Dern's double denim and Sam Neill's Dad-plaid in Jurassic Park

Contributed by
Jun 10, 2018

Welcome back to Look of the Week! Celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

Jurassic Park roared its way into theaters 25 years ago. The franchise continues to expand with the release of Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom in a couple of weeks in the U.S. (it is already out in some international markets). Clothing discourse dominated when Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) spent most of the first Jurassic World running through the jungle in heels, but there was no such chat back in 1993.

Sensible boots were the shoe of choice, though the only person dressed inappropriately for the island climate is Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Leather jacket and an all-black ensemble are not ideal. But then again, the team wasn't exactly given an itinerary for the forthcoming activities. If Dr. Malcolm knew he would be running away from a T-Rex, he might have packed differently.

Jurassic Park
Everyone in the helicopter at the start of the film wore an extension of their work attire—in slight defense of Claire in Jurassic World, those heels are part of her corporate look (but they probably could have found her a spare pair of boots or at least some chic flats). Dr. Malcolm continued to eschew any color in his closet, but in 2018 he opts for more buttons done up. Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) managed to keep things looking business up top and finding the perfect lawyer-looking khaki shorts to match. Those legs will soon be dangling out of a T-Rex’s mouth. There is no outfit that can save him.   

Prior to this helicopter ride, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) are shown in their working environment: at a paleontological dig site in the Montana desert. This introduction and the clothes they wore go a long way in establishing their expertise, professionalism, and relationship. Costume supervisor Sue Moore—no costume designer was credited for Jurassic Park, but by all accounts, Moore was responsible—dressed Dern as Dr. Sattler in double denim out in a sea of plaid.

Jurassic Park
To wear denim-on-denim without looking super cheesy is no easy task. Just ask Britney and Justin. As has already been mentioned in the SYFY FANGRRLS dedication to Dern’s Jurassic Park khaki shorts, part of the reason this outfit looks so cool is because it is Laura Dern. Movie stars make certain outfits work in a way us mere mortals cannot. But double denim isn’t just for movie stars. It can be done. Varying shades is one big tip in achieving double-d sartorial success, as Dern does here.

In 1993, denim advertising had entered its jeans-as-sexy phase with brands such as Calvin Klein, Guess, and Levi’s going all in on the ‘sex sells’ advertising philosophy in the least subtle way possible. Instead, Dr. Sattler’s got a classic Americana aesthetic that can’t be pinned down to one era. This is not a look that will be extinct any time soon. Just look at another Spielberg scientist from two decades previous who favors a similar denim-on-denim look: Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) in Jaws.

Jurassic Park screenshot
Denim’s original function was work wear—it wasn’t until the ‘50s when it became a leisure garment—worn by those working outside, often in difficult terrain. Think miners, ranchers, and farmers. The Montana desert fits this description. Instead of gold, they were hunting for dinosaur bones. Dr. Sattler was sensible in her attire, but there is an element of fashion.

Her khaki bucket hat and plastic sunglasses are very mid-90s without being too faddy, whereas Dr. Grant’s aviators and straw Panama are more timeless sun protection items. Somehow she even makes her water bottle look like a cute purse, slung over her shoulder like a cross-body bag.

Jurassic Park Screenshot
The red neckerchief she ties around Dr. Grant’s neck is a sign of intimacy—their coupledom is immediately confirmed when they walk down to the computer arm-in-arm. The neckerchief disappeared for the rest of this sequence, making its reappearance on the helicopter.

Grant wears it for the duration of the movie, later only taking it off to fashion it as a makeshift bandage for Tim’s (Joseph Mazzello) electrocution-burned hand. Couples often dress like one another, and while Grant and Sattler differ in their feelings about children there is mirroring in their styling. Grant wears a denim shirt to the island, though he sticks to his trusty khaki pants—ultimately a better choice for climbing trees and fences.  

Plaid is the unofficial shirt pattern of choice at the Montana dig site, but plaid is far more than just one thing. It tells a story; it is its own style language. Plaid comes in a variety of pattern sizes and colors. There’s cute Western shirt girl plaid, cowboy plaid, lumberjack plaid, grunge plaid, hipster plaid and Dad-plaid. And that’s just the tip of the plaid iceberg.

Jurassic Park screenshot
In this shot alone there are four different kinds of plaid. Bonus points to the dude in jorts with the mullet. He is clearly the guy with a cooler full of beer and the one you go to if you want to get high.

This opening scene underscored Dr. Alan Grant’s strong level of contempt for children. His plaid tells a different story. You don’t have to be a father to wear Dad-plaid; the essence of this style is how it is worn. Sleeves are rolled up (short-sleeve plaid is also quintessential Dad-plaid—think of the scene in Mad Men during the eclipse showing the typical dad leisure attire). If it is tucked in, there is slight looseness, a few buttons are undone, but not too many. Kids aren't the only thing that Dr. Grant found tiresome; he is also not too fond of technology. There was a no-nonsense quality to everything he did, and that included his closet. He is also more uptight than his significant other. Again, we get all of this not only from the dialogue but their costuming.

Once on the island, there was no time for costume changes; clothes were shed, whether through heat or damage. It is going to take more than a few washes to get rid of the mud, blood and sweat. It became a matter of surviving. The opening scene established Dr. Sattler and Dr. Grant as experts in fields that require a level of comfort. To be a professional doesn’t mean office attire.

Jurassic Park Premiere 1993

There aren’t that many photos available from the Jurassic Park world premiere, which took place in Washington, DC on June 9, 1993. But here is Jeff Goldblum in a suit that is the perfect example of ‘90s menswear bagginess. Seriously, why so baggy? Goldblum’s style has definitely gotten better with age.

Dern’s look is also very much on trend for the time—as well as this current ‘90s revival—and this outfit is pretty low-key for a world premiere. Then again, the lack of photos from this event would suggest these red carpets didn’t get the same level of attention as they do now. Again, she looks great. It doesn’t matter if Dern is wearing denim-on-denim in the desert or an embellished crop top at a world premiere. ‘90s fashion continues to have its comeback moment, and much like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, these garments find a way back into our hearts.